A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Even having read Wendy Faris’ article "Sceherazade’s children..." I am not sure how to place Garcia Marquez’s script for VOMWEW within the magical realist current in Latin American Fiction. Simply, it seems to fit. The film seems like a postmodern ontological safari into religion and Latin American culture which is one of the genres of the current that Faris indicates. Problematically, the only author Faris mentions that I have read is Milan Kundera. To this extent I find it odd that Jerzy Kozinsky or Stanislaw Lem are not mentioned here also. Thus I would predict that "magical realism" is kind of a silly hair splitting "genre" and should instead be more of an adjective to describe simply "fiction."

As a film this is the first Latin American film outside of Death of a Bureaucrat that deals with events improbable but plausible that I have seen. As a film it seems useful in understanding how foreign and awkward Catholicism is for Latin America. The film contains a real struggle with the notion that this tangible person could be an "angel." The solution to this dilemma and to the film is that the angel flies away. Perhaps this is suggestive of a current that would prefer the rigors of Catholicism take a hike. This would also seem in keeping with what Walter Benjamin is talking about when he criticizes Myth and recommends Allegory. Benjamin is not mentioned in Faris’ article, but I would guess his ideas are important in thinking of how magical realism came to be.

Reading the apparently original eight page children’s story that VOMWEW is based on shows a big difference in the final film. The entire carnival and spider woman seem added out of left field. I for one, was thinking of Baktin’s notion of the "carnivalesque" here, so I wonder if he too is seminal to the development of "magical realism."

In fact, the scenes of the angel and the little boy are the only ones that had any kind of seriousness or respect. The rest of the film seemed very much like a Jon Waters film (particularly Polyester) which is not to say that I don’t like it, rather it just represents a hurdle when trying to academically review this film. This film lampoons Latin America the same way that Polyester lampoons America; however both do so to a socially useful extent. I think that knowing how to laugh at yourself even if only under the guise of "magical realism" is a sign of real progress and would be so within any ‘current.’

I am really not sure what to do with the elements of the film where the angel is angry and uses laser vision to "spank" the jeering crowd. I thought it was funny and I approve; yet I have no idea what it ultimately meant. Thus I think a key to the current of "magical realist" is that appeal occurs at an intuitive level that cannot be fully articulated in an academic way.


Last Updated on 03/06/00
By JR Kerr
Send Comments to jamesrkerr@yahoo.com


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